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Yellowstone County gearing up for state's first all-mail election

Posted at 6:37 PM, May 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-07 20:38:00-04

If you're an active voter in Montana, ballots for the June 2 primary election will be arriving in your mailbox within days.

Due to social-distancing guidelines related to the spread of the coronavirus, an in-person election is not happening. As a result, this year's primary will be the first all mail-in election in state history.

In Yellowstone County, Elections Administrator Bret Rutherford said Thursday his staff has been busy stuffing 85,401 ballots to be mailed out Friday. That's about 10,000 more than the number of absentee ballots sent out for the 2018 primary.

"We are issuing a ballot to every active voter for this election, so there's about 10,000 more people who will receive a mail ballot," said Rutherford. "So we'll see what kind of turn out when get from them."

In both the 2016 and 2018 elections, voter participation in Yellowstone County hovered around 50 percent, which is what Rutherford is expecting again this year.

Voters will receive three separate ballots in their packet, but they are reminded to only fill out one of them.

"Voters have to decide which party they want to be affiliated with for this very specific primary," Rutherford said. "You get to vote one ballot. The other two you're just going to want to discard them. Don't send it back with the other ones, because if we see three voted party ballots in your packet, none of them get counted."

In the 2018 primary, Rutherford said as many as 700 people had their votes tossed out because they filled out more than one ballot.

Perhaps the best news in this mail-in election is that the return postage is included, so there is no cost to exercise your right to vote.

Voters also have additional time to get registered to vote. This year's registration deadline is May 26, some two weeks later than normal.